Independence Day Mayor Phil Gordon style

By Linda Bentley | August 6, 2008

Employees permitted to support but not oppose

PHOENIX – An article ran in a Phoenix newspaper on Independence Day titled, “Recall effort proceeds without employees’ signatures,” stating, “City Attorney Gary Verburg has instructed employees that they are not allowed to sign the recall petitions being circulated by American Citizens United,” the political action committee running the recall effort to oust Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

According to Verburg, “… most political activity is prohibited by Administrative Regulation 2.16, which is based on the federal Hatch Act.”

However, the Hatch Act, as it applies to covered state and local employees, says nothing of the kind.

The Hatch Act prohibits covered employees from being candidates for public office in a partisan election, using their official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the results of an election or nomination and directly or indirectly coercing contributions from subordinates in support of a political party or candidate.

American Citizens United Vice Chair Phillip Quihuis said he and other volunteers have run into numerous city employees who wanted to sign the recall petition but said they couldn’t because they were afraid they would be subjected to retaliation if their supervisors found out.

On Tuesday evening, a 20-year veteran Phoenix police officer, using the moniker “Paddy Wagon,” called in to KFYI-550 talk radio during the J.D. Hayworth Show, who happened to be discussing the subject, and said the longer she listened, the angrier she got.

The officer said, “I voted for the mayor. I even put a yard sign in front of my house.” She was incensed that the city took the position that it was OK for her to exercise her constitutional rights if she supported the mayor but not if she opposed him, even though 80 percent of the city’s police force disagrees with Gordon and Jack Harris, the city’s public safety manager, about the city’s policy that prohibits officers from contacting ICE.

While police officers are trained professionals who make reasoned decisions all day long during the course of their duties, she questioned why they are not trusted to make a phone call to ICE when it is deemed appropriate and found it offensive to be so strictly scrutinized over an unfounded fear of racial profiling.

The officer said she became so angry she drove 25 miles to the Juniper Library to sign the recall petition and, while she was there, grabbed a handful of blank petitions so off-duty Phoenix employees can sign the recall petition without having to drive 25 miles.

Chris Simcox, founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, had called in to Hayworth’s show earlier and said he had civil rights attorneys willing to take on the city on behalf of employees whose rights were abridged.

Oh, and that letter Gordon wrote to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mulkasey, where he said, “A member of my own staff was one of six drivers recently detained by one of the sheriff’s deputies for ‘off-roading’ in a restricted area … the first five drivers were asked to show a driver’s license and released without being cited. My staff member was asked not for her license, but for her Social Security card – and was issued a citation. She was the only Hispanic of the six. The other five were Anglo.”

Well, records indicate that’s not exactly what occurred at that traffic stop.
Because Gordon would not cooperate with MCSO when it asked for the identity of the staff member who made the allegation, MCSO made a public records request for documents in an effort to identify the employee.

And, after reviewing thousands of e-mails and other correspondence, MCSO found nothing consistent with Gordon’s profiling allegations.

As it turns out, the staff member Gordon was referring to, who was eventually identified as Jessica Rodriguez, wasn’t driving, she was a passenger in the vehicle being driven by her husband David Rodriguez, who was stopped, as was a motorcycle ahead of them, for driving around a “Road Closed” barricade near Bartlett Lake because roads were washed out from heavy rains.

A subsequent MCSO investigation of the traffic stop by a lake patrol commander said the deputy explained he was issuing the citation for failure to obey a traffic control device and asked David Rodriguez for his license, registration, proof of insurance, plus his social security and phone numbers, required fields on the citation form.

Rodriguez claimed the only reason her husband was cited was because they are Hispanic while others drove around the barricade that were not.

The deputy explained to Rodriguez there were several people with permission to access the area because they needed to attend to sinking boats in the marina and a motor home that needed repair.

According to another report, Rodriguez apologized to the sergeant for “throwing out the ‘racial card,’” during an interview held shortly after the December 2007 traffic stop.
Nonetheless, Gordon called MCSO’s traffic stops and crime suppression sweeps an abuse of power and claimed it is about “racially profiling U.S. citizens,” which has emboldened David and Jessica Rodriguez to join a federal lawsuit in which they have rekindled their claim of racial discrimination.

Check for recall petition locations.